María Currea de Aya
Colombian Suffragist, Politician, & Nurse
Thank you to Daniel Suarez Baquero, a fellow Colombian nurse PhD, who let us know about this remarkable nurse!
María Currea Manrique was born in Bogota, Colombia on May 28, 1888. Born to General Anibal and Hersilia Manrique de Currea who were considered wealthy, she spent her child traveling throughout Europe and the United States. During a period when women were prevented from pursuing higher education, Maria trained at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and obtained a nursing degree and completed her doctorate in Philosophy and Humanities from the University of Sorbonne in Paris. During this time she also began to establish relationships with the Inter-American Commission of Women. Maria married Ruperto Aya who was a revolutionary general in the Thousand Days War. He was also a huge proponent for women’s rights.
During the 1930’s, Colombian women generally had limited rights as they were seen as dependents under the guardianship of their husband, father, or brother and no control over their earned wages. In response, a group of women led by women's rights activist Georgina Fletcher, presented Régimen de Capitulaciones Matrimoniales (Rules for the Articles of Marriage) to the Colombia President, Enrique Olaya Herrera. The proposal was rejected and Fletcher was criticized and persecuted from society. However, two years later Maria’s husband introduced her to President Enrique and she again advocated on behalf of women’s citizenship laws in the country. In 1932, Law #28 of 1932 was passed which finally recognized women as full citizens. In the following years, this passage led to a a cascade of women’s advocacy efforts and progress.
By 1936, women had the right to obtain higher education and serve in public office. Maria Currea served as the Colombian delegate to the Inter-American Commission of Women (1938–1948). While also living in the U.S. Maria Currea worked at Henry Street Settlement Home, taught Spanish, and wrote and translated works for local newspapers. In 1944, she returned to Colombia and co-founded suffrage organizationswith Lucila Rubio de Lavere such as Union Femenina de Colombia(Women’s Union of Colombia) and Alianza Fememinina de Colombia (Women’s Alliance of Colombia). Over the next ten years, Maria Currea collaborated and advocated for women’s rights and the need to address socio-economic issues in the country. Finally in 1954, after a long battle, women in Colombia were granted the right to vote. During the first election in 1957, almost two million women were registered to vote. Maria Currea ran for office in 1957, and she was elected as the first councilwoman in Bogota, Colombia and then president of the council. In 1969 she served as mayor of Pacho, Colombia. Maria Currea also founded the School of Nursing of the Red Cross and volunteered as a Red Cross Volunteer of the Gray Ladies of Bogota.
Maria Currera has been widely recognized for her contributions. In 1960 she was recognized with the “Woman of the Americas” by the Organizations of American States. The president of Peru awarded her the status designation of officer of the Order of Merit for Distinguished Services in 1972. She was awarded a medal in 1981 by the Colombian Association of the United Nations. In Colombia, a Civil Order of Merit with Maria’s name is awarded annually to recognize women who have excelled in social, cultural, and political areas to improve quality of life for communities.
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Know Your History
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